Durlston Castle

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Durlston Castle — Dorset, England

Durlston Castle is located in Dorset, just outside the coastal town of Swanage in the southeast of the Isle of Purbeck; the Castle is a focus point within Durlston County Park.

Durlston CastleThe park was established in the 1970's by Dorset County Council to preserve and conserve one of the most important parks in the country. With this view of conservation and by careful management with Rangers overseeing the Park, the Council has achieved many of its goals. Today the park offers some of the most stupendous views along the Jurassic Coast, with a network of footpaths that start at the Castle, crossing each other across the 280 acre estate; with footpaths offering access to the Southwest Coast Path. Durlston is more than a park; it is the gateway to the Jurassic Coast World Heritage Site, which is also a designated Heritage Coast, a Special Area of Conservation, a Site of Special Scientific Interest, an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and a National Nature Reserve; with offshore waters being part of the Marine Research Area. There are many other accolades as well, rightly so as this historic location is almost unequalled in Britain for its diversity of wildlife, its numerous species of birds, wildflowers, moths, numbers of butterfly that use this location to breed, and thousands of other invertebrates that can be found here.

In recent years Durlston Castle has become the centre of attention for development into making the Castle a world class 'Gateway Centre' for the park and for the Jurassic Coast World Heritage Site. Dorset County Council, its partners and volunteers are working towards ensuring that the Castle retains its original beauty while enhancing and transforming the Castle into a more usable visitor's facility and an information site with exhibitions and displays.

The history behind the Castle began with George Burt who had the Castle built on his property, Durlston estate between 1887 and 1891. This structure was to be used as a centrepiece for a housing estate. Burt's dream was to transform Swanage into a fashionable seaside spa. Burt had the Victorian zeal for learning and the natural world, leaving behind him a legacy of artefacts such as the Great Globe, a huge sculpture of a globe made from 40 tons of Portland limestone; and cast iron bollards from many parts of London, all linked by the cliff top footpaths with Victorian panels that offer either poetry, or interesting facts. Add to this the huge variety of plants imported from around the world and Burt had the makings of what he hoped would attract a small number of individuals wishing to make Durlston Estate their home. Burt's dream never came to fruition, although 88 plots of freehold building land were offered in 1891. Fortunately for conservationists, the land remained vacant with the exception of the Castle, the Great Globe and a number of 'imported' bollards that originated in parts of London. An interesting aside is that many of these iron posts were also used in Swanage, some of which can still be found, if one looks for them.

During the 1930's a Shell advertising poster had an illustration of the Great Globe rendered by Graham Sutherland; and during World War II there was a radar station used for guiding pathfinder bombers, but it wasn't until 1944 that RAF Durlston Head was added. At the close of WWII the RAF huts were used for emergency housing and were not demolished until 1974, shortly after Durlston Park was created.

Interestingly, Durlston Castle has always been used as a restaurant, but today the plans for the Castle will give the building greater significance once all of the reconstructive work has been accomplished. The structure will be the undisputed seat of the park, surrounded by the splendour of the countryside, sea cliffs on the coastal edge of the park, with ancient meadows, hedgerows, woodlands and a stunning path through the woods that leads to the historic Great Globe and of course, Durlston Castle.

Read about the Tilly Whim Caves near Durlston Castle.

Where is Durlston Castle?

Durlston Castle is located in the Isle of Purbeck in Dorset, England.

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